July 4, 2015
Flags and bunting line the streets
of small town USA
We celebrate what we think it means
to be American
We know all about the american dream,
Nope, this has nothing to do with re racking your weights so I don’t have to, although that’s really annoying folks. Its not about when I feel totally intimidated by the men with bulging muscles that work out around me and my puny little arms. This is about when I dropped my son off for child care.
We have never stereotyped gender roles in our house. I have two sons, AJ (10) and CW (5), and I can remember many times when they have both wanted to do things or have things that society might say are for girls. AJ spent hours on the playground in preschool playing princesses with the girls, and then wanted to be Word Girl for Halloween. He most recently purchased a Nerf Rebelle Crossbow, and had no problem purchasing it, but the lady at the checkout asked if he was going to a birthday party for a girl in his class.
I’m really excited about the strides that are being made in the area of girls toys. I think products like Goldie Blox and Nerf Rebelle are great, in that they market traditionally “boy toys” to girls. Although when was it not ok for girls to play with erector sets or nerf guns? But that’s a post for another time.
However, in our move to move girls into the areas that have been reserved for boys we haven’t made the same lateral move for our sons. CW wants his nails painted all the time, but he has learned that he might get made fun of at church or school. He watches My Little Pony and sings frozen in the car. He can even articulate that “if I like pink its a boy color, because I’m a boy, and if a girl likes blue its a girl color, because she’s a girl”. This is more than I can say for what we encounter most often when we meet people while he’s wearing his Cinderella ring and carrying his unicorn.
This Saturday we went to the gym and CW got to pick out the movie. He picked little mermaid and the attendant raised her eyes, I informed her that he also wanted My Little Ponies for Christmas, almost gearing up for a fight. She just smiled and said “tell me all about the ponies little man.” Later she came out and found me on the treadmill and said “A little girl comes in every Saturday with her My Little Pony backpack, filled with ponies, and no one ever wants to play with her. This week she came in and dumped them on the floor and your son said ‘You’ve got to be KIDDING me!!’ and was just so excited. He has been playing with her ever since, and I think its the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!”
This truly warmed my heart, somebody recognized my son for who he is. A sweet little boy who loves ponies, and who knows a lot about how to be a good friend. My prayer is that we can let kids be kids, and let them decide who God has created them to be, painted nails and all.
“Our father in heaven…” If you are someone who grew up in a church I’ll bet you couldn’t even stop yourself from finishing the Lord’s prayer in your head. And to be honest, before I started in Seminary, I hadn’t really thought much about the gender of God. I mean, we say the Lord’s prayer and it says Father and there are a whole lot of “He” in the Bible in reference to God, so it becomes natural for one to think of the creator in a masculine form.
However, the first time the question “Is God male?” was asked of me, my immediate reaction was “well… no”. If I am reasoning this out, God the Creator is neither Male or Female, and is not subject to time or the size and scope of human beings. As I continued in my seminary studies I found that we would spend a lot of time talking about this. We would argue about it, write papers about it, and talk about how our churches need to understand it.
Then one day in Sunday school a very profound statement came out of a 6th grader. I love middle schoolers, always have. They are silly and awkward and have moments so profound they astound you. We were discussing attributes of God shown in the Old Testament vs attributes in the New Testament and I posed the question “Does God change?” This question was pretty hard for 6th through 12th graders to answer but the consensus was that No, God does not change, but our understanding of God changes because we are human and He is God.
So I said “God is hard for our brains to understand, because we live in a place constrained by time, but God is bigger than time, God is bigger than gender…”
“What?” Shouted one of my boys. “What do you mean God is bigger than gender?”
I wasn’t really prepared for this conversation, but if you’ve opened the can of worms might as well go fishing, so I asked the group, “Alright, this wasn’t our topic for the day but since we are here… Is God male?”
I got a mix of answers, ranging from “Yes, why else do we call him Father?” to “I guess God is whatever he wants to be” to “I don’t even know what you are talking about”
Before I could address any of these answers one of my 6th grade girls said, in a quiet voice “I’ve always wondered about this, because if we are created in God’s image, and if God is a dude… then what does that mean for me?”
Everyone in the room got silent, as they processed what this meant for women, and the students began to understand God in a different way. All I had said before had set a stage for this profound question from an 11 year old, and taught the class more than I ever could. I love it when God works that way.